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In times of self-reflection and self-analysis, I have looked at my parents and my childhood. I can see aspects of myself that I have either inherited or absorbed from each of them.

I called my dad this morning to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and I asked him how he is similar to his father.

“That’s a good question,” he responded, “and a tough one. We were so different. He was a hard worker. When he wasn’t at his job, he was working on the house or property. I, on the other hand, am lazy. I do not like yard work. I was always more bookish.

“He had a serious injury to his ankle in a river when he was a kid, so he never went in the water with us. Instead of abalone diving, he would wait until low tide, so he could just walk over the rocks. Or, he would stand on the cliffs and point out places for us to go diving.

“He made surf fishing nets for us, and while we were fishing, he’d build a fire on the beach and cook hot dogs.

“When he worked night shifts, he couldn’t go to my basketball games. When Steve [his younger brother] had a track meet, he would sit in his truck, and give a thumbs up, or honk his horn.

“He didn’t judge anyone. He hugged everybody. I can be a little judgmental. I can’t think of how we’re similar. Can you?”

Yes, I can. It was rare to see my grandfather without a smile on his face. He had a great sense of humor and loved to tell stories. My father is like that. Fortunately, some of that trickled down to me.



My grandparents were so cool. As a child, I knew they were the parents of my parents, but I couldn’t connect those dots. They were older people who made me feel special, and introduced me to different perspectives.

This poem resonates with me, so I wanted to share it with you.

My Grandparents’ Generation

They are taking so many things with them:
their sewing machines and fine china,

their ability to fold a newspaper
with one hand and swat a fly.

They are taking their rotary telephones,
and fat televisions, and knitting needles,

their cast iron frying pans, and Tupperware.
They are packing away the picnics

and perambulators, the wagons
and church socials. They are wrapped in

lipstick and big band music, dressed
in recipes. Buried with them: bathtubs

with feet, front porches, dogs without leashes.
These are the people who raised me

and now I am left behind in
a world without paper letters,

a place where the phone
has grown as eager as a weed.

I am going to miss their attics,
their ordinary coffee, their chicken

fried in lard. I would give anything
to be ten again, up late with them

in that cottage by the river, buying
Marvin Gardens and passing go,

collecting two hundred dollars.

Lake Julie

“Hello?” I answered my work phone.

“This is the last time I’m going to read this to you,” was the responsive greeting  I immediately recognized my father’s voice. “’I will not eat it in a box, I will not eat it with a fox. I will not
eat green eggs and ham. I will not eat it, Sam I Am.’”

“Oka-a-y,” I responded, glancing around the busy law office, wondering where this was going.

“Dr. Seuss recently died,” he said, “and I’m reading a column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle paying tribute to him.  I was thinking about how many times I had to read his books to you over and over again.  So, I’m just letting you know, that this is the last time I’m reading this to you.”

Laughing, I said, “Well, thanks for lobbing me one more read.”

His jobs over the years ran the gamut from disc jockey to TV announcer to trial attorney to ultimately retiring as Deputy Chief Counsel for the State of California. Throughout his careers he always had an audience of some sort. Don’t forget that trial lawyers play to a jury.

One of my earliest memories of my father is sitting on a riverbank with him, looking up at the night sky. I asked him, “What are stars?”

He replied, “Well, when it’s night time, God pulls down a shade. The shade has a lot of holes in it, so the sun shines through those holes.”

It made perfect sense to my three-year-old self.

A few more “highlights” of life with my father:

  • When my brothers and I were kids, he enjoyed playing Director in home movies. We couldn’t just walk up a sand dune. We had to crawl on our bellies, tongues hanging out, dying of thirst in the Sahara Desert. Too bad movie cameras didn’t have sound back then. It would be fun to hear our comments.
  • And, he would just make stuff up. For instance, my great-grandfather’s name was William Harrison. So, my dad told me that I was related to President William Henry Harrison, which I proceeded to share with all my friends, until I found out it wasn’t true. It so happens that that president served about 40 years before my great-grandfather even immigrated to this country.
  • My brothers like to tell the story of when our family camped near Mt. Lassen. Dad announced we would be hiking up the mountain, so our mother suggests we bring jackets. My father responds, “No, we don’t need them. The higher we are, the closer we’ll be to the sun, so it will be warmer.”
  • He kept the manuscript of “Pirates of Penzance” from his college acting days, and decided that he, my brothers and I were going to act out the different parts, and he would record us on the tape recorder. I can still see him coaching my brothers on the “correct” way to say “Arrgh,” as my mother rolled her eyes.

My father taught me how to use my imagination – to look at people and situations at different angles. I am grateful to him for this, because it allows me to see and understand different points of view, and to appreciate an individual’s uniqueness.

I am a biographer-personal historian. I am very good at it. I have a strong organizational skillset, but, more importantly, I was blessed with an upbringing of storytelling and a curiosity about life. Because of my father’s influence, I am able to preserve life stories for families around the world in a fun, educational and insightful manner; the benefits of which will be enjoyed generation after generation.

Thanks, Dad.

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